As we embark upon a new year, please know that my administration is doing all we can to enhance economic development opportunities, in order to help local businesses grow and bring and keep jobs in Fort Wayne.
In late December, we joined with private sector business leaders to announce that progress is being made to align economic development efforts in our community.
In fact, this coalition provided a progress report and plans for next steps on coordination of economic development activities that focus on stronger alignment; increasing the competitive position of the community; and enhancing economic development opportunities. This was a process that began in September 2012, when we initially announced plans to work together.
Leaders from the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Improvement District (DID), City of Fort Wayne, and Allen County have been engaged in thorough discussions to gain a complete understanding of challenges and opportunities associated with making a restructuring of economic development possible. Leaders have also been detailing commitments that each organization would need to make in order for a restructuring to be successful. Additional talks have focused on what types of financial and legal structures would need to be implemented.
In an effort to continue the positive momentum achieved over the past several months, Parkview Health President and CEO Mike Packnett has agreed to serve as a transition chairman, to assist in helping leaders reach a final decision on a structure and strategy to move forward. We anticipate a structure and strategy will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Integrating economic development efforts takes time. We, as local leaders, have benchmarked other cities across the country that have experienced successful transitions. It's not uncommon for implementation to take between 18-24 months. However, we've learned much from studying best practices and we've determined that other cities have gained positive momentum through private sector leadership – and a demonstrated commitment to drive economic development processes.
As discussions continue, economic development efforts by the Alliance, Chamber, DID, City, and County have been and will continue to move ahead. Current businesses, prospective future businesses and other entities working with leadership from each entity can count on service and program levels and staffing to be the best possible to attract and retain businesses.
On another note, as so many of us battle an unpredictable winter, complete with a brutal flu season, our Parks and Recreation Department is organizing an annual event that is sure to beat the winter blahs. The annual Winterval festival will be Saturday, January 26 and promises fun for the whole family. The Botanical Conservatory will feature the "Mighty Jungle Adventure" exhibit, indoor snowmaking, ice carving, arts and crafts and cookies and hot chocolate. The Community Center will host its Winter Carnival from 1 to 4 p.m. This free event includes horse-drawn wagon rides, indoor curling, ice fishing, snow crafts, pinewood derby (bring your car) and an ice carving.
More Winterval activities will take place at Science Central; The Old Fort; the History Center; the Allen County Public Library; Lawton Park and the Arts United Center. The Headwaters Park Ice Rink will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will feature figure skating exhibitions.
For more information about Winterval, visit www.fortwayneparks.org.